You would not have wanted me to clean your house or make your meals when I was a junior in college but I did just that at the summer house of a man named Dwight. There I learned everything I ever needed to know about hospitality. As I soon as I pulled up to the imposing house overlooking Edgartown harbor with a red MG convertible parked in the white graveled driveway for the interview, I turned around: I was no more qualified to work here than orbit the moon. But Dwight then appeared-wearing a bathing suit and a Tina Turner World Tour t shirt - beckoning me inside.
Dwight's sailboat was called Incorrigible and he loved how girlfriends would often call him that without knowing the name of the boat. My job was to feed and quench the thirst of the dozens of people who pulled up to the house either by boat, car or bike, day and night. "All I care about is that you are game and know how to use this..." and he gestured to an enormous wine opener bolted to the wall with hundreds of corks collected in a glass bottle beneath. My best friend Holly who was painting houses a couple blocks away would come over in the afternoons in an old hearse her friend was using as his summer wheels and Dwight poured us all shots of Aquavit and listened and laughed at our childhood stories like he was at the theater.
Artists, bankers, scurvy sailors, and a countess or two were all welcome at Dwight's table. He was in his late 40s but he had a childish spirit that was both nurturing and immature exactly at the right times. I would often find him sacked out on one of the many hammocks along the white porch after a flurry of lunch guests had departed. I'd look out onto the harbor and a yacht would be headed our way as if drawn to a magnet. Sensing it in his sleep, Dwight would jovially cry out "Incoming!" and another crazy cycle began. On my last day before I had to return to college, a storm suddenly felled the electricity. "Ever cooked swordfish for 50 in a fireplace?" he said. It was dark but I could see his grin like a lighthouse beam. I never answered. After all, my knowledge had never been the point.